transparent glass façade of the new Levine Hall makes a striking
impression on the viewer, but the very first thought that comes
to mind on seeing the building is: How did they fit that there?
six-story home for the Department of Computer and Information
Science, dedicated last April, sits on space formerly occupied
by a service and parking zone tucked in among the School of
Engineerings Towne Building and Graduate Research Wing (GRW)
and the English Departments Bennett Hall. Named for Melvin
J. Levine W46 and his wife Claire, who donated $5 million toward
the $15.5 million pricetag, Levine Hall physically and symbolically
links the engineering buildings, and also creates a new campus
vista by opening Chancellor Walk, previously used for parking,
as the main entrance from 34th Street and landscaping the surrounding
area. A second entrance was created on the Walnut Street side,
where Levine joins with GRW.
features a double-height entrance lobby and a 150-seat auditorium,
department and faculty offices, and lab and meeting space. The
floor heights are 14 feet, which, along with some modest ramping,
made it possible to link the differing floorplates of the three
buildings. The project also included construction of a cyber-lounge
in the former garage of the Towne Building, and creation of
a new courtyard between Levine and the new bioengineering building,
Skirkanich Hall, to be constructed on the 33rd Street side.
Hall is the first building on campus to be designed by Kieran-Timberlake
Associates LLP, the Phila-delphia-based architecture firm headed
by Stephen Kieran GAr76 and James Timberlake GAr77, who also
teach a final-semester design laboratory for masters students
in architecture in the School of Design. In its emphasis on
knitting together disparate elements, its mixing of materials
and textures, and its use of innovative building technology
the glass curtain-wall is exceptionally energy-efficient and
was pre-assembled off-site for ease of constructionLevine Hall
is representative of an architectural practice in which, as
Kieran puts it, we are as much mechanics as conceptual thinkers,
or even more so.
of campus in which Levine is located is a designated historic
district, notes Timberlake, requiring design review by both
the Philadelphia and state historic preservation commissions
as well as Penn officials. The Towne Building dates from 1906
and GRW from 1967; Bennett Hall was built in 1925, the Moore
School building, also nearby, was constructed in 1912 and altered
in 1926. (Pender Labs, another 1960s-era structure, has been
demolished for Skirkanich Hall).
with such a varied building context, the best way for a new
structure to fit is often to refuse the choice of imitating
one style or another, but do something that seams the existing
pieces together, says Kieran. We very much think that Levine
Hall does that.
at the corner where Levine and Towne meet, masonry blocks alternate
with the glass windows in a zipper-like pattern to join the
new Levine building back into Towne without imitating it, he
says. Then the glass wall slides back toward GRW, which is
itself a glass building.
and Timberlake praise Penns administration, and especially
Engineering Dean Eduardo Glandt GCh75 Gr77, for a willingness
to press the envelope in terms of the buildings design. The
dean, says Timberlake, didnt express a desire for a glass
building, but he did express the desire to have people understand
what engineering was in the 21st century and to be able to understand
that from without as well as from within the buildingwhich
was also in keeping with the Universitys general emphasis on
turning its face back toward the community, rather than looking
need for openness meant that the glass wall had to be as transparent
as possible, and not just a shiny brick building, Timberlake
adds. But that goal seemed at odds with another critical concerncontrolling
energy costs efficiently. The conventional way for managing
heat and light in glass buildings in the United States is to
use tinted or reflective glass, which Kieran compares to having
a conversation with somebody whos wearing sunglasses.
To meet both goals, the designers turned to a ventilated curtain-wall
system that had been used in about 40 buildings in Europe, but
never before in the U.S. This is a really good energy-management
system for the building. It uses energy responsibly, and is
extremely comfortable at 100 degrees or 10 degrees, says Kieran.
Though more expensive initially, it should save money over time
in energy costs.
The system consists of a double-glazed glass unit on the exterior
and an interior single-glazed glass unit in an aluminum frame,
with air continuously ventilated through the cavity between
them to maintain temperature. Electronically controlled blinds
also hang within the cavity. The units arrived pre-tested and
pre-assembled, and were basically hoisted up and snapped onto
the building frame by a team of a half-dozen workers.
School of Design Dean Gary Hack praises Levine Hall on both
technological and aesthetic grounds. It restores the idea that
we can do things which are at the cutting edge and which are
exploring new technologies in our buildings, he says. The curtain-wall
system is a really innovative way of handling the exterior
of a building. Hack calls it very nice and very sophisticated
building that is also extraordinarily important in the way
that it connects all the pieces of the engineering campus together.
> > >